While more and more people are choosing to shop online after indulging in a Thanksgiving feast, early surveys predict that roughly 116 million people across the nation will brave Black Friday crowds this week in search of can't-miss deals on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
At the Best Buy at Hamilton Place off Gunbarrel Road — an area sure to be swarming with shoppers over the next few days — customers will be given a color-coded map when they walk in the store that leads them to the best deals. With Toys R Us going out of business earlier this year, Best Buy general manager Nate Roach said the company is taking advantage and has shelves stocked with toys from Star Wars Legos and Nerf guns to Barbie houses and My Little Pony sets.
"We started getting this stuff here about a month and a half ago," Roach said Tuesday, pointing at a box of Hot Wheels cars. "It was a huge market left untapped."
The National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics surveyed more than 7,500 consumers this year and estimates 164 million people will plan to shop Thanksgiving day through Cyber Monday. According to the survey, 21 percent will plan to shop on Thanksgiving day, 71 percent on Black Friday, 41 percent on Small Business Saturday, 20 percent on Sunday and, finally, 46 percent of shoppers will take advantage of online deals for Cyber Monday.
Big Lots is planning to open as early as 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving, but others, including TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Office Depot/Max and Staples, will stay closed for the holiday.
Roach said Best Buy has more inventory for the weekend than it has had in years and has hired several seasonal employees. One of the store's biggest deals is a PlayStation 4 with Spider-Man game included for $199 — $100 off its original price. Best Buy will open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
The survey shows that about 26 percent of Black Friday shoppers go mostly for the tradition. Phil Rist, Prosper Insights executive vice president of strategy, said they are seeing a change in how younger consumers see the weekend.
"Compared to older generations, younger consumers under the age of 35 are more likely to be attracted by the social aspects of shopping over the weekend or by the fact that it is a family tradition," Rist said.
It doesn't matter how good the deals are, some Chattanooga residents said they won't go near Black Friday crowds.
"I haven't gone in years," said Allison Weston of Chattanooga, adding that it doesn't seem like the deals are very good anymore unless searching for new electronics, which she barely buys.
"Basically, the deals don't outweigh the hassle anymore for me," she said.
Christy Taylor said she is hoping to buy a new TV at Target for a family member for Christmas.
"But [I'm] hoping I can find the deal online so I don't have to tackle the crowd," Taylor said.
WalletHub's holiday studies show that jewelry will offer the most value on Black Friday compared to current prices, and computers and phones are expected to be the least rewarding deals.
Hamilton Place and Northgate malls are betting on the shoppers who enjoy the hunt for a good deal. The malls' "Black Friday Bash" begins at 10 a.m. with a DJ and there will be hourly prizes until 4 p.m. There also will be a recharging station at Hamilton Place for shoppers to set down their shopping bags, charge their phones and grab free sodas.
"We're sure shoppers are going to love being part of the enthusiasm in the search for that one perfect buy," said marketing director Taylor Bostwick. "It's an experience you can't get sitting at home in front of a computer."
People planning to do most of their shopping via smartphone or laptop might be onto something seeing as Tennessee ranked as the state with the second-highest risk of Black Friday violence by Reviews.org. The top five states with the highest risk of Black Friday violence were all in the Southeast or East, including Arkansas at No. 1 followed by Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina and then Alabama.
Researchers said they based their findings on three sets of data — high violent crime rates, perceived interest in Black Friday deals and previous Black Friday problems. When looking at incidents at major retailers, 57.1 percent of all incidents happened at Walmarts across the country and the most frequent type of incident was trampling, according to the website.
"While we're not saying you should bet your grandmother's Christmas gift on this conjecture, we think we have a pretty good guess," researchers wrote.
What they recommend as survival tips? Make a plan, carry only what you need, keep phones charged, leave if you sense danger or avoid Black Friday altogether.
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at email@example.com, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.